During the early fall of 1941, the Japanese Supreme War Council approved a plan to cripple the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.

Concurrent with this attack, the Imperil Army of Japan planned to seize Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippine Islands and the Dutch East Indies.

These proposed military assaults were part of a Japanese scheme, the "Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," to extend the Rising Sun Empire from Thailand and New Guinea to China and Manchuria.

Weeks later, Japanese Naval Commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto summoned his subordinates to the Nagato, his flagship, and briefed his naval officers on the planned surprise aggression on the Pacific Naval Facility at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island.

Yamamoto noted that without a victory at Honolulu, Japan could never become a military power and secure its grip on Greater Asia.

In early December of 1941, Yamamoto issued the coded order, "Climb Mount Niitaka," and the Japanese fleet of five aircraft carriers and 25 support vessels now stationed in the cold, icy waters of the North Pacific, sailed toward the Hawaiian Island, to remove as Yamamoto characterized, a fleet that was "a dagger pointed at our throat." On December 7, 1941, the attack began at 7:55 a.m., one that a Japanese commander ironically lamented as the "Awakening of a Sleeping Giant."

On October 11, 1942, seventy-one years ago, the United States Pacific Fleet, the arm of the "sleeping giant," along with the light cruiser, U.S.S. Boise and other allied ships, engaged in a vicious battle with the Japanese Navy near the Solomon Islands.

The American fleet sank six Japanese warships, but the Boise suffered severe damage.

Marine Private First Class Norman L. Moore, of Rural Route #5 in Neshoba County, served aboard the Boise.

The attack wrecked Moore's quarters and destroyed his summer uniforms.

After the cruiser retired to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for repairs, Moore wrote to his "dear grand daddy," Abner E. Harbour: "I suppose you have heard about our last battle. There was a lot in the papers up here about this little ship and what we did. There were one hundred and seven men killed on our ship and I didn't even get hurt at all."

Another Neshoba native, Captain Ernest W. Permenter, son of Mrs. Maude Permenter, came under a Japanese attack only a few weeks later.

Permenter and his coastal anti-aircraft battery had just arrived from Australia and defended a frequently attacked airfield in Northern Papua, New Guinea.

Waves of Japanese bombers assaulted the airstrip, as Captain Permenter remembered, "We has just arrived and hadn't had a chance to mount our guns when the Japs hit us, but the boys managed to get a couple of guns in action and did we give the Japs a surprise."

The War Department officially credited the Philadelphia native and his gunnery crew with three confirmed kills and three probable kills."

About two weeks after the battle that made the U.S.S. Boise famous as the "One Ship Fleet," the Japanese Navy launched another attack on October 26, 1942 against part of the U. S. Pacific Fleet operating near the Santa Cruz Islands.

During the assault the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Hornet, suffered severe damaged from a coordinated dive bombing and torpedo plane aerial bombardment.

The crew abandoned the crippled carrier, ablaze from stem to stern, and a short time later, four Japanese torpedoes sent the Hornet to the floor of the ocean.

Seaman James O'Dell Kelly, son of Tom Kelly of the Forestdale community, was aboard the Hornet and recalled, "The Hornet was attacked about 11:15 [a.m.] by wave after wave of planes dropping bombs all around." Most of the officers and men escaped in life boats and other ships in the convoy rescued the crew.

While the attack killed or wounded many of Kelly's shipmates, the Neshoba County sailor only minor injuries.

According to Kelly, the carrier and its support aircraft downed over 200 Japanese airplanes in the battle that lasted nearly all day.

Rescue ships transported the crew to the British Isles and later to the United States.

When a fellow crewman asked one of Kelly's compatriots if he planned to re-enlist, he replied, "Damn it, yes, in the new Hornet." The Navy launched the new U.S.S. Hornet on August 30, 1943 at Newport News, Virginia, and commissioned her on November 29, 1943.

Ship's Steward Second Class James Kelly later served aboard the U.S.S. Solace (hospital ship), the U.S.S. Bountiful (hospital ship), the U.S.S. New Orleans (heavy cruiser), and the U.S.S. Mobile (light cruiser).

For his service, the War Department awarded Kelly the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with 13 bronze battle stars), the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

The twenty-one year old Neshoba sailor received his discharge from the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois, on October 25, 1945, with a medical disability.


Civil War Veterans

Combs, James Deck - Private; enlisted April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles, later Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age eighteen; farmer.

Received $50.00 re-enlistment bounty at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, February 7, 1862; wounded at Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862; admitted to General Hospital #21 at Richmond, Virginia, July 1862.

Furloughed for sixty days, July 27, 1862; wounded at the Wilderness, May 6, 1864; hospitalized with a gunshot wound in the left thigh at the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia, May 10, 1864.

Furloughed for sixty days, June 6, 1864; Muster Roll, November-December 1864: "Detailed to work in Government shoe shop at Bankston, Miss."

World War II Veterans

Permenter, Ernest W.- Second Lieutenant to Captain; enlisted on October 1, 1941 in the United States Army; octane engineer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at an anti-aircraft training center at Fort Bliss, Texas, and at Camp Wallace, Texas, January 1942.

Served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations with the 14th and 15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Companies in the East Indies, Port Mosby to Buna, Papua New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, and the Southern and Northern Philippine Islands, May 1942 to October 1945.

Awarded the Distinguished Unit Badge and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with five bronze service stars).

Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum

Steven H. Stubbs, Curator

303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;

Monday thru Friday